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On March 26, 2010, a Kentucky man was driving a 15-passenger Dodge van on Interstate 65 when it was struck head-on by a tractor trailer that broke through the steel barrier cables along the median. The tractor trailer smashed into the van, then a rock wall before catching on fire. In the van was an extended family of nine, plus three family friends. At least two people were ejected from the van, while others were thrown from their seats inside the van. The truck driver and 10 of the 12 occupants of the van were killed; the only survivors were two young children, both most likely saved by child safety seats.

An initial investigation stated that the truck driver made an attempt to stop, but only after crossing the median. As part of the investigation, it was discovered that more than half the drivers for the Alabama trucking company had violations for driving over the maximum hours without rest and failing to properly record their hours worked. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shut down the trucking company; the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) later discovered the company continued to operate after selling itself to FTS Fleet Services, an Arkansas company that used the same trucks, drivers and Alabama facility.

The NTSB’s final investigation concluded that the truck driver was distracted prior to the fatal accident. He had made or received 69 cell phone calls or text messages within a 24-hour period; four calls were made in the minutes leading up to the accident with the final call at the time the truck crossed the median. The Safety Board also determined that the median barrier system, which had recently been installed following another cross-median fatal accident on the same section of I-65, contributed to the severity of the accident because it was not designed to redirect or contain a vehicle of the truck’s size.

The NTSB stated three main recommendations in its recent report:

· A ban on the use of mobile phones, hand-held and hands-free, by commercial drivers except in emergencies

· Changes to the design of median barriers on roadways because median crossover accidents are often deadly, especially those involving large commercial vehicles

· An amendment to Kentucky’s seat belt law which would cover all vehicles carrying 15 or fewer people

Distracted driving is a serious issue on our nation’s roadways. Since 2002, the NTSB has been pushing for a ban on cell phone use while driving. In 2002, the agency recommended a ban on cell phone usage by teen drivers. In 2004, after a deadly bus accident was traced to a distracted driver, the Board recommended a ban on cell phones for all bus drivers. Last year, it recommended a ban on texting devices for all boat operators after a deadly boat accident on the Delaware River, and for all train engineers after a Metrolink train accident was linked to a train engineer who was distracted by his cell phone.

Aren’t these accidents enough to get the message across? Doesn’t a ban on cell phone use and texting while driving only makes sense? There is no phone call or text message that is worth risking your life or the life of others.

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life funding is needed during litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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